NY Times Article: Iran, the Jews and Germany (& the Baha’is)

ny-times-2009-03-01Dear Friends,
Roger Cohen, one of the most influential columnists at the NY Times, has been writing about Iran in over 7 op-ed pieces lately.
One of his latest articles, “What Iran’s Jews Say,” describes the relative civility of the government towards the Jews, as an effort to lessen the demonization of the Iranian government as portrayed by Western media.  Although the intention is worthy–we all should be striving for unity and consultation among nations–he is seemingly unaware of how bad things are for the Baha’is in Iran.  He mentions the Baha’is in passing, but doesn’t seeminglly equate ill treatment of the Baha’is as the same as of the Jews or other groups.
Please recommend this comment in response to Mr. Cohen’s recent article, “Iran, the Jews, and Germany” by registering at the NYtimes.com and clicking on “Recommend”:
Text of Comment:
“Roger, tucked away in your earlier op-ed, “What Iran’s Jews Say”, is the single sentence: “Among minorities, the Baha’i — seven of whom were arrested recently on charges of spying for Israel — have suffered brutally harsh treatment.” Throughout your series of seven op-eds from Tehran, you failed to tell us anything more about the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran, or, whether you asked to meet with these seven persons.

Concerning the seven, a 22 February 2009 VOA editorial “reflecting the views of the United States Government” (http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2009-02-23-voa5.cfm) states:

“More than 9 months have passed since 7 leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested and sent to prison with no access to legal counsel. Now the Iranian government has announced the 7 have been charged with espionage. The move is the latest in decades of repressive measures against the Baha’is, the largest non-Islamic religious minority group in Iran. Those measures include barring Baha’is from attending public universities or working in public agencies, destroying or closing Baha’i places of worship, bulldozing Baha’i cemeteries, legally confiscating Baha’i property, and killing Baha’is with impunity.”

In your current op-ed, you write: “I was based in Berlin for three years; Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust inhabited me.” Roger, doesn’t the above remind you of something that occurred in Nazi Germany some 70 years ago?

For your information, tens of thousands of Baha’is have been slaughtered in Iran from the time this religion emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. The most recent murder occurred in July 1998, when Rúhullah Rawhani, a Baha’i businessman and father of four, was executed in Mashad without sentencing and without any semblance of due process.

In “What Iran’s Jews Say”, you stated: “Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.” I suggest you examine Iranian “civility” toward its gentle Baha’i minority before pronouncing judgment whether Iran is a totalitarian regime. More to the point, go back and try writing an op-ed “What Iran’s Baha’is Say”. I am confident “the consistent warmth” (your description) with which you were received in Iran by this savage theocracy will dissipate with the speed of a uranium enriching centrifuge.”

— JG, Caesarea

2 responses to “NY Times Article: Iran, the Jews and Germany (& the Baha’is)

  1. Mona Shahgholi

    This is a very interesting article that has apparently stirred up a great deal of interest.

    Personally, I am rather shocked that the writer did not sense a weird contrast between the treatment of Baha’is, which he mentioned on the passing, and the rather ‘normal’ lives of Jews in Iran.

    Funny thing is that when I lived in Iran, during the pre-revolutionary days, there was a synagogue down the street from our house, and we witnessed discrimination directed at our Jewish neighbors every single day. Our Jewish neighbors would come to us all the time to ask for help with one thing or another (work they could not do on Sabath), which we were happy to do.

    Wow, I cannot believe that the revolution worked in favor of the Iranian Jews!!!


  2. Please note that Roger Cohen’s earlier op-ed, “What Iran’s Jews Say”, is now appearing online in the Tehran Times. At least part of it. The op-ed has been conveniently “abridged” and deletes the following:

    “I know, if many Jews left Iran, it was for a reason. Hostility exists. The trumped-up charges of spying for Israel against a group of Shiraz Jews in 1999 showed the regime at its worst. Jews elect one representative to Parliament, but can vote for a Muslim if they prefer. A Muslim, however, cannot vote for a Jew.

    Among minorities, the Bahai – seven of whom were arrested recently on charges of spying for Israel – have suffered brutally harsh treatment.”

    I have complained to Roger Cohen and to the Public and Web Editors of The New York Times re this “omission”, but they have refused to respond to me. A subsequent online comment that I sent to The New York Times concerning this “omission” was rejected. This refusal of The New York Times to report or otherwise investigate this matter raises a host of questions.

    I can only suggest that you contact Mr. Cohen and the Public Editor of The New York Times via the e-mail addresses provided by The New York Times and demand clarification.

    Note also that Roger Cohen will be meeting on March 12 with Iranian Jews who fled Iran at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, to hear “their side of the story” . Efforts should also be made to ensure that Roger Cohen is also informed, face to face, of the suffering of the Baha’is in Iran.

    JG, Caesarea

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